Born in Chesham, the son of a draper, Arthur Lasenby Liberty became a pioneer of fashion.

Buckinghamshire had long been famous for its lace when he began his career with a relative who manufactured it.

However, by the date of the Great International Exhibition of 1862 he was working in London for Farmer & Rogers ‘Great Shawl & Cloak Emporium’.

Japan had opened to Western trade and the arts and crafts it displayed at the Exhibition led to the creation of the Aesthetic Movement.

His employers did not share the enthusiasm this created in Liberty who raised sufficient capital from his family to go into business on his own in Regent Street which was the first in London to be built specifically for luxury shopping.

A hansom cab outside the original Liberty department store on Regent Street

Initially he imported goods from Japan but in time extended this to China, Java and Persia.

The business attracted famous artists of the day and led to Liberty’s involvement in the development of the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau movements.

For many years it produced its own silks and fabrics at Merton Abbey Mills in south west London.

All this led to Liberty catering for new styles of interior decorating and décor that appealed to late Victorians.

It fell to his heir, Ivor Stewart-Liberty, to realise Liberty’s vision of marking the success of his business by building the present store in adjacent Great Marlborough Street in the Tudor style that had become popular at that time, using timbers taken from two old wooden warships.

Ivor took the figurehead of Admiral Lord Howe from one and placed it at the entrance of the house built for him by Liberty at the Lee.

Liberty & Co department store on Regent Street

Liberty had retained his Buckinghamshire roots, purchasing the nearby Manor House, extending the estate and making several improvements to Lee village, one of which was to provide the cricket pitch that gave rise to a poignant story of the First World War. In August 1914 a match between the village team and the Manor House led by Ivor Stewart-Liberty was interrupted by rain.

War was declared the following day but Ivor and the village fast bowler, Albert Phillips, vowed to resume play once it was over.

Both men went off to war but only Ivor survived.

However, one hundred years later play was resumed in memory of Phillips and others of the village who did not return.

The Manor House won.